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An Update from the Sustainable Communities Program

by Kati Gallagher, Sustainable Communities Program Director

It feels like autumn is flying by over here, so I wanted to take a step back and reflect on some of what the Sustainable Communities team has been up to recently. But first…

What is a “Sustainable Community”?

Communities that are inclusive, diversified, and connected are key to strengthening the resilience of Vermonters in the face of environmental, economic, and social change. Some of the most impactful climate investments Vermont can make — expanding transit services, walk and bike infrastructure, and “missing middle” housing options in our designated centers — are also needed to help improve affordability. Sprawling development in our rural lands is likely to be exacerbated in the coming years due to increasing trends including climate migration.  To support and create sustainable communities – and prevent the poorly-planned, sprawling development that undermines them – state and local smart growth land use planning and policies are needed. 

What is Smart Growth? 

Smart growth is a development approach  that encourages connected, mixed-use, accessible communities with a range of affordable transportation and housing opportunities. In Vermont, it builds on and maintains the state’s historic settlement pattern of higher-density downtown and village centers surrounded by farms, forests, and natural areas.

Now that we’ve revisited these important definitions, check out some recent events and opportunities for engagement, if you’d like to learn more!


CATMA (Chittenden Area Transportation Management Association) hosted its inaugural Transportation Summit on Oct. 18. Joey Miller, VNRC’s Climate & Energy Program Director, and I had the opportunity to present on Vermont’s Climate Action Plan and Influencing Policy, respectively. Yasamin Gordon, Director of DEI Policy & Culture for Opportunity Consulting, provided the keynote address through an impactful story of her experience with Vermont’s transportation system – or lack thereof. Presentation recordings will be posted here in the coming weeks!

Community Engagement

Two Small Grants for Smart Growth were awarded in October. The first helped to increase access to the Mad River Valley Housing Summit by providing funding for childcare, food, and materials. The room was packed with folks eager to learn more about what the Mad River Valley can do to ease the housing crunch in their community. The second grant will also help with access, this time to engage Upper Valley residents to discuss a recently released regional climate action plan.

Upcoming Engagement & Learning Opportunities: 

  1. Join the VT Racial Justice Housing Jam! Beginning November 29, Abundant Sun and statewide housing partners are hosting a series of educational seminars featuring a mix of national and regional leaders in racial equity and roundtable discussions for housing practitioners to share best practices to address specific systemic conditions throughout Vermont’s housing network. 
  2. Are you an NEKer? NEK Together 2022 is an all-day community summit to build leadership, create healthy civic discourse, and convene individuals and organizations to support solutions to challenges in the priority areas of housing, workforce development, and more! Register | Attend 11/11/22

Working Lands

We all love our local farm businesses, but when does a farm business become more business and less farm? This is one of the questions we’re wrestling with as a stakeholder with the Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets and Natural Resource Board’s effort to examine regulation of Accessory On-Farm Businesses (AOFBs). Have thoughts on how to support AOFBs while avoiding sprawl and misuse? Let us know!   

>> Helpful tools for supporting agriculture and managing land use: 

And, we’re hiring!

VNRC, Vermont Conservation Voters (VCV) and the Vermont Planners Association (VPA) are seeking a Legislative Intern to help track forward-looking environmental legislation moving through the State House during the 2023 legislative session (January through May 2023). Learn more here.